Final Light: A Carolingian Timeline

I do wonder why this is considered the end of the Carolingian Empire. I don't see any reason why Charles wouldn't be a) a Carolingian and b) an Emperor. He could easily lose control over any or all of the kingdoms beyond Italy, though, and I suppose that might be what the historiography signifies.

Or, you know, maybe he's not as safe and sound as his father believes.
CHAPTER 1.XXI: The Fathers and the Son
“Atlas was shuddering and shifting the weight of heaven upon his trembling shoulders. He was Atlas. Or he would have been.”

- Historian Michele-Canzio Barni (✝ 1 April 1904 AD)

Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)

Emperor Louis II was a powerful ruler who could do what he chose inside his kingdom and destroy all his opponents. The following Spoletan emperors were as powerful; their opponents, though stronger than those of Louis, lasted no better. Yet, once Lothair III acquired the Iron Crown of Pavia, he certainly had little power to control what went on at a local level in Italy, except utilizing the occasional large-scale court proceedings, but it would need an optimistic analyst of the Carolingian government who could claim much more direct power for the Later Carolingian era than for the days of Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious. All medieval kings had to act inside the parameters set for them by the attitudes of those who served them and through whom royal power was delegated. With the death of Emperor Louis II in 875, however, these parameters decisively changed. Louis II had ruled through a complex set of organs – the state bureaucracy, missi, counts and bishops in cities – which structured their political activity around the king, and tended to balance each other to royal advantage. By the tenth century, however, being a count was no longer very different from being an ordinary landowner; the state bureaucracy was dissolving; the concerns of the ecclesiastical and lay aristocracies were directed towards their own power bases, and barely towards the state at all. Lothair III could pull down bishops who resented Carolingian influence over the Latinate Church, and elevated new noble families in traditional ways, but his power base was in Franco-Neustrian, not Italian. As king of Italy he had almost no direct power of any kind, especially once he left the kingdom in favor of his other possessions from which he ruled Italy in absentee.

Nonetheless, the concept of the coherence of the Italian kingdom remained strong still. It was strong enough for Ottwin I of Ivrea and Unroach IV of Friuli to regard it as worth fighting for after their wider ambitions had failed, despite the traditional distance that especially Friuli had from Italian politics, before and after Unroach IV's brief and unsuccessful venture. Significantly, the only Italian aristocrat who really remained aloof from the power struggles of Italy was the only margrave who did not to try to go for the throne, namely Adalbert II of Tuscany (and his son Guy I), who changed sides continually during his lifetime and sometimes did not recognize any king at all, until the time was ripe. Other potentates, secular and especially ecclesiastical, seem to have wanted a single king of Italy and a solid and stable state as well. They just differed, and sometimes changed their minds, about who was to rule it.

To counteract the effects the Civil Wars of Italy which, similar to those of Meridia, destroyed much of the administrative capabilities of the kingdom, Lothair III had crowned his oldest son Charles as his co-emperor shortly after the Meridian Campaign and had sent his now-adult son back to Italy after 926. Until the age of six, his mother and Bishop Siegfried of Parma were responsible for the education of Charles and his around four years younger brother Louis. From 926, the upbringing of the two boys was coordinated by margrave Ottwin I of Ivrea, who assisted the two potential heirs for the next seven years, but was only partially suitable for this task, as he had rebelled against the emperor only a little more than a decade ago. Whether or not Ottwin I had a profound influence on the personality of Charles is unknown, yet it was noted by Hermann of Metz in 931 that both Ottwin I and Charles were by nature very impish and narrow-minded persons, though both were “gifted with the intelligence to use the right words and storm the hearts of their listeners.”

Charles’ time had come once his father Lothair III died during the Battle of Wenzelbach 932. News of the sudden end of the emperor reached Italy only slowly and without any clear instructions on what to do next. What mustn’t be stepped aside is that governance at that era of history remained quite personal and institutionalization of the national apparatus hadn’t occurred yet. The most important hint whose successor Lothair III should have been was the status of Charles as his co-emperor and co-ruler of Italy. Thereafter, unlike his brothers, Charles’ ascendancy to the Italian and imperial throne went relatively unchallenged by the aristocracy, despite its chaotic and oftentimes inscrutable nature and the mosaiced political situation of the Southern Half of the Carolingian Empire.

Charles II was crowned King of the Lombards by Bishop Aicone II of Milan in Pavia without much resistance in the marches of Italy. His brother Louis, meanwhile, had already departed for Arles where Bivin of Burgundy is awaiting him to crown him King of Aquitania. Charles II, as a direct descendant of both Lothair III and Charlemagne himself, would continue to stylize himself as the emperor of the Franks as well. This might imply that he genuinely believed a view which prevailed in the clergy of the time, which pursued the ideal of a single Christianity and a single ruler, the latter of which had to rely on the nobility and clergy for his legitimacy. His coronation is oftentimes compared to the Ordinatio Imperii, as both were intended to change and end the previous rule of dividing the existing empire among the descendants in equal parts, to maintain the unity of the Frankish empire and introduce primogeniture as the basic law of inheritance. According to Charles II whose views were delivered by Hermann of Metz, the firstborn son of Lothair III, Charles II himself, should become the sole ruler of the empire, with his brothers Louis, Henry and Odo becoming kings subordinate to the emperor in Aquitania, Neustria, and Francia. Yet, due to the young age of both Henry and Odo, Charles II’s view of his reign over the Carolingian Empire, similar to those of Louis the Pious and his Ordinatio Imperii, quickly began to fall apart. Especially in Neustria and Francia, many potentates refused to accept another Carolingian king and had proclaimed their own anti-kings [1].

The coronation of Charles II in Pavia was greeted by Pope Boniface VII. He was a very energetic pope who, however, found himself under the influence of the family of the Roman Senator Giacomo, Count of the small town of Fornovo near Rome. Giacomo was vestararius and master militum [2], and, based on these offices, he was responsible for the Roman treasury and defense of the eternal city. He was supported by his wife Paola, who was instrumental in helping Boniface VII to acquire the pontificate who only begrudgingly accepted the help of the nobility. While this didn’t immediately affect the authority of the pope, it certainly diminished its power inside the eternal city. To secure his influence on Tuscany and Liguria, Giacomo married his daughter Paola off to the son of Adalbert II of Tuscany, Guy I, who had become one of the largest landholders of medieval Italy after the disruption of the growing power of the Dukes of Spoleto in the aftermath of the Imperial rule of the Widonid House of Spoleto.

Pope Boniface VII saw Charles II's arrival as a way to finally free himself from the negative influence of the Giacomii and Guy I. The pope met Charles II in Viterbo to explain the situation and the conditions for the imperial crown.

What the pope did not know is that Giacomo, Guy I, Ottwin I and Charles II already decided to permanently eliminate Boniface VII who stood against the interests of the lay aristocracy. Charles II initially assured to Boniface VII that he will support the Lateran in any way possible in order to gain the imperial title. Only a few weeks later, however, the Giacomii gave the order to storm the Lateran and arrest the Pope for incest with his sister, wife of a rival of Giacomo in the Roman senate, and blasphemy. Boniface VII was imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo and died a little later in his prison, marking the beginning of the saeculum obscurum, the dark age, of the Papacy. Two years later, after a very short pontificate of the elderly Leo V who, before his rise to the Lateran, was attached to the Church of Saint Cyriacus in Rome, enabled Giacomo’s son Lucian to elect his brother Giovanni as Pope, who entered the Lateran as John X.

Meanwhile, Charles II acquired the imperial title in Rome by Pope Leo V in 934 with a pompous ceremony following it.
His rule was from the start quite turbulent; One of the first problems that arose during his reign was a result of political developments in the Maghreb: After the missionary Abu Abdallah al-Shiʿi spread the Ismailite doctrine among the Berbers of the Maghreb, he overthrew the Aghlabid dynasty in Ifriqiya. He thus paved the way for Said ibn al-Husain or, as he has stylized himself later, Abdallah al-Mahdi, who founded the Fatimid Empire in Ifriqiya. The latter, as the alleged descendant of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, attributed his lineage to the Prophet's daughter Fatima, which is why his dynasty is called “Fatimid”. Abdallah al-Mahdi took the title of caliph and founded the capital al-Mahdiya south of Sousse. From the outset, the aim was to overthrow the Abbasids, who were usurpers from the Fatimid perspective. While the subjugation of Al-Jazair and Sicily succeeded, campaigns into Egypt were initially unsuccessful which led to a shift of focus for the Ismailis of Africa and an increase of commercialized raids into Italy and Meridia from the Fatimid Sicilian emirate [3].

One of these naval raids hit the town of Pisa in Tuscany where the Saracens stormed the gates and pillaged a trading district of the city. This caused visible unrest in the region which worsened further once a dispute between the emperor and the pope was triggered by disagreements over the administration of the increasingly autonomous marches and counties of Italy and, in particular, over the appointment of a new archbishop of Ravenna after the death of Archbishop Giovanni IX of Tossignano. Ravenna in the 10th century was characterized above all by a strained relationship with the Lateran in Rome. Throughout the eighth century and until the middle of the following, the archbishops sought support from the kings of Francia, but not always with a happy outcome, as, for example, archbishop George was imprisoned by the army of Charlemagne. After 850, however, the archdiocese tightened the autocephalous policy even more and came to the point of harassing the suffragan dioceses of Modena, Reggio, Parma, and Piacenza, imposing heavy taxes on them and forbidding them to communicate directly with the Church of Rome without contacting Ravenna first [4].

A call to reason by Pope John VIII in 879 and by Pope Hadrian III in 915 did not change the attitude of the archbishops of Ravenna, who indeed continued the policy of affirming their supremacy over the bishoprics of Italy given the historic precedents and making autonomous choices in terms of alliances with the holders of temporal power. The archdiocese of Ravenna approached the kings of Italy to resolve the issues with the Lateran throughout the ninth century multiple times without success. Yet, despite these frictions, the prestige of the Ravenna towards the Italian episcopate did not fall apart, and, in 927, after the death of Pope John IX, the aforementioned archbishop Giovanni IX of Tossignano was almost elected pope with the support of some factions within the Roman lay aristocracy [5]. With his death in 935, however, the Giacomii and Pope John X saw a way to reclaim Ravenna for Rome and to end the struggle for more autonomy in the region which still stood under some Greek influence.

For this task, Pope John X appointed a man named Costanzo or Constantin who, according to the Annals of St. Gallen, was previously the Bishop of Cesena, to the archbishopric of Ravenna. Not much is known about this figure, except that Constantin was a Papal loyalist and a man without any ambitions. He seems to have been a fierce critic of the Carolingians in Italy which might explain the swift reaction of Charles II to the rise of Constantin: A bishop named Alberic, who is usually ascribed to have been the head of the diocese of Sarsina was appointed to become the new archbishop of Ravenna by the emperor, which was an open confrontation with the Church of Rome and, thus, infuriated the clergy of the country. This act of Charles II was, unsurprisingly, quickly denounced as simony, the purchase of a spiritual or ecclesiastical office, benefices, sacraments, relics or the like.

The Ravenna Dispute is seen in connection with the investiture dispute of the coming century, where the term was temporarily extended to any lay office (lay investment), whether for money or without compensation. When Charles II subsequently wanted to occupy the Archdiocese of Ravenna in agreement with the high nobility of the area, in particular margrave William I of Friuli who sought to limit Papal influence, Pope John X threatened them with excommunication.

Nevertheless, the Papal attitude towards Charles II was initially conciliatory, despite the Ravenna Dispute. Only the escalating confrontations in the dispute over Ravenna clouded the relationship. After Constantin died in 937, the Papal power in Ravenna was thereby weakened, Charles II intervened in the conflict and appointed Alboardo, a member of his court chapel, as the new archbishop; whether he had dropped his previously appointed candidate Alberic or whether Alberic passed away before 937 is, like so many other events of that time, lost in history. Now, negotiations between the successor of Pope John X, Pope Benedict IV, and the king of Italy began, in which some bishops of the north supported the lay investment by the king. However, even the negotiations failed, further deteriorating the relationship between Charles II and the Lateran. When Charles II finally invested two more bishops in Spoleto and Modena, the former traditionally in the sphere of influence of the Papal States, the situation completely escalated. The Pope excommunicated some of the King's advisors, including William I of Friuli, as a warning. In 938, Benedict IV asked the emperor with harsh words to relinquish his occupation of the Holy Church, yet, even this letter went unanswered.

Thus, the emperor had to be punished: In a synod was convened near Roselle [6], Pope Benedict IV excommunicated Charles II who had insisted on his right to appoint bishops and retroactively declared his rule as illegitimate. As a response, Charles II declared in Bologna that Pope Benedict IV was a “parasite and intruder to the Church of St. Peter” and appointed the Bishop of Pavia Leo as the new “elected” and rightful pope. Charles II found support in the more rural areas of Italy with important hotspots for agitation against the Giocomii being the city of Tivoli which, for most of its history, was locked in a bitter rivalry with Rome. The first acts of antipope Leo VI included the excommunications Pope Benedict IV and the archbishop Litifredo of Ravenna, which was the last straw for many of the Pro-Papal forces of the Lombard Kingdom: a civil war ensued with the Giocomii siding with Pope Benedict IV. Meanwhile, in Ivrea, the opportunist Ottwin I dropped his support of the Carolingian Dynasty whose two oldest legitimate kings he had foster-fathered for almost a decade. He moved from Ivrea to Parma where he held many speeches considering the illegitimacy of Charles II and his “unchristian and frivolous” behavior. Ottwin I, with the support of Guy I of Tuscany and other magnates of Italy, moved to Perugia, a city that stayed loyal to Rome, where he was finally crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope Benedict IV.

Charles II as depicted in a 19th-century engraving.

Charles II is crowned King of Italy in Pavia.
933: Pope Boniface VII is arrested for forged offenses by a Roman faction around senator Giocomo of Fornovo. He dies in prison and is succeeded by elderly Pope Leo V.
934: Charles II acquires the imperial title in Rome by Pope Leo V.
935: Pope Leo V passes away. He is succeeded by senator Giocomo's youngest son John X.
935: Ravennese Archbishop Giovanni IX of Tossignano passes away, commencing the Ravenna Dispute between the Papal and Imperial factions.
937: Pope John X passes away. He is succeeded by his cousin Benedict IV.
939: The Ravenna Dispute escalates after Benedict IV excommunicated Emperor Charles II after he denied withdrawing his appointments to the dioceses of Modena, Spoleto, and Ravenna. Charles II reacts by declaring Pope Benedict IV a traitor to the Catholic Church and proclaiming that his ally Bishop Leo of Pavia from now on acts as the pope. A civil war between the Papal and Carolingian factions in Italy ensues, with Ottwin I of Ivrea being proclaimed as the new rightful emperor by the Papal faction.

[1] I’ve already established that the death of Lothair III marked the end of the Frankish Empire. I hope this didn’t surprise anyone.
[2] No Theophylacti ITTL. But they certainly are an alternate version of them, I can't see no noble family trying to influence pre-reform Papal elections for their own gains.
[3] A little backstory on the Fatimids of this timeline. The butterflies have not reached North Africa as quickly as the "immediate" surroundings of the Carolingian Empire (meaning al-Andalus, Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Greater Moravia, the Bulgars, and the Byzantines, the latter two already having had a lasting impact on the Balkans and the Abbasid Caliphate, the latter definitely deserving their own update sooner or later), especially because these tribal areas did not have extensive exchanges with the Carolingian world (yet). Through the Umayyads and Abbasids, the Fatimid fate will definitely change, yet I don't think the death of Charles the Bald in 851 AD would have changed the persecution of the Isma'ilis in the Near East and the conversion of the Kutama Berbers of Sijilmassa and the eventual overthrow of the descending Aghlabids. Yet, and I can't understate it, the changes I've mentioned during the timeline will alter the course of the Fatimid history. What I can tell right now is that the agenda of the Shi’a Caliphate of Mahdia is the same as IOTL, namely the dogmatic opposition to both the Umayyads in Iberia and the Abbasids in Iraq and the renovation of local administrative and military structures.
[4] IOTL, the dispute was closed by Pope St. Nicholas I (858-867), who summoned the archbishop to Rome and, given his refusal, went to Ravenna where he found the general dislike of the clergy and people for the archbishop Giovanni, who had to appear before a synod that condemned his work in 861. Given that ITTL, we had a series of rather secluded popes who would like to appease the more ambitious clergy outside of Rome, this dispute had continued for a while until, well, now.
[5] He was, IOTL, Pope John X, who gained the favor of the Theophylacti. ITTL, the Counts of Tusculum, however, lost their power struggle within Lazio so that he didn't get the decisive support he needed as a "foreigner" to the Roman senate and the city's clergy.
[6] The Saracens skipped the city ITTL, as much of their raids will be focused on the judicates of Sardinia, Liguria and the area around Pisa and Lucca.

OOC: In the face of the ongoing pandemic, stay safe.
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CHAPTER 1.XXII: Carolingian Family Tree!
The current family tree of the male line of the Carolingians. I have added some illegitimate sons which I have mentioned during the course of this timeline; on the other hand I have removed some other "less important" ones to keep it clean. The next update will focus on Lothair III's son Louis!
CHAPTER 1.XXIII: An Heir walks into a Kingdom...
Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)

Lothair III's misfortune was discussed throughout the Carolingian world and continued to spark controversies well into the 14th century. Everything that happened, especially the unexpected, was always a sign of God. The cruel fate of the ruler was a special touchstone according to this belief; for Lothair III, as the defender of Christendom and the butcher of the Saracens, was under the protection of Jesus Christ as long as he served the Lord properly. Through his words and deeds, Lothair III had promised the nobles and the clergy a renovation of the Roman institutions, indeed, maybe even the Roman Empire. But he died against pagan barbarians without success, lonely in a sullen and abandoned place, and without a secured succession plan. Had he done wrong before God? Did the Father leave him? The men of St. Flour's Abbey in Aquitaine pondered this, and many of the abbey's works stemmed from these doubts.

But for now, life continued as usual in Aquitania. While chroniclers preferred to deal with the battles of the era, the daily political happenings of the different regna had hardly been mentioned. However, some documents and charters from this period survived, which is why scholars could at least partially reconstruct the events.

Louis, the second-oldest son of Lothair III, had arrived in Aix near Marseille, to meet Bivin of Burgundy to marry his second-oldest daughter Alda. She was promised to him after his father had bought the Holy Lance from the Duke of Burgundy, and as an act of benevolence of the powerful potentate of the Provence. It is said that the marriage was pompous and that there was a large feast held. That the marriage was still held even after the unexpected death of Lothair III might imply that Bivin, already an old man by the time of this marriage, did not strife to fill the power vacuum of the region. More likely, however, is the explanation that Bivin thought that he could mold the teenager Louis into a form that fits his desires and ambitions [1].

Yet, the marriage was certainly overshadowed by the complex situation of the ever-tumultuous Kingdom of Aquitania. Feudal society may strike the modern historian as having been too anarchical in practice. But in theory it was a rigorously ordered society in which every individual had his fixed place in a strict hierarchy of lords and vassals. The keystone of the system was the king, the suzerain lord of all. Nonetheless, this position relied on the support of the potentates of the nation which Louis at least partially acquired from Bivin of Burgundy. Louis, thus, set out to ride towards Narbonne where he should be crowned king of the Aquitanian lands.

The modern historian has a hard time to understand the gap of almost five years until Louis III was finally recognized as the legitimate ruler over Aquitania, but to finally see through this interesting and ever-so-complex web of personal ties and relationships, one must first get to know the other three large landholders of the kingdom.
William II, Count of Auvergne, held large estates in most of the modern area known as Auvergne. Yet, he had lost Berry in 925 to the Widonids of Neustria which enjoyed the support of the rulers of Gascony and Dukes of Aquitania, the Ramnulfids. William II had the support of the local viscounties near Limoges, yet these viscounts only sometimes paid homage to him or the Aquitanian king in general. Nonetheless, he indeed was a very powerful landholder with his influence stretching as far away as to Friuli where his half-brother Bernard I of Friuli reigned without much opposition.

The lands nominally under the control of Odo II of Toulouse are quite vast in area and wealthy in income, yet are only indirectly ruled by the counts of Toulouse, with many lesser noblemen having pledged their allegiance to multiple landlords of the area. Threatened in the West by the aforementioned Ramnulfids of Gascony, he turned to William II of Auvergne and sealed an alliance against their common enemy.

The Ramnulfids, now led by Ramnulf IV, controlled large estates in both Neustria and Aquitania, and enjoyed marital ties to the emerging Widonids of Neustria. Yet, their largest area under their fist, Gascony, was largely depopulated and remote from most urban centers of medieval Aquitania and only occasionally mentioned in the chronicles of the time which might hint at the sheer remoteness of this duchy. It is known that it was ravaged by the Normans throughout the ninth and tenth centuries and that some areas near the Pyrenees had declared their allegiance to the Pamplonan Kingdom in Iberia instead. Yet, one should not underestimate their influence on Aquitania, as their interventions against the Counts of Toulouse and Auvergne prove.

This is, of course, simplifying correlations and historic circumstances, yet it can’t be forgotten that tenth century Aquitania was a patchwork of innumerable nearly independent lordships. Political disintegration and multilateral pledges of allegiances led to some sort of overfeudalization which meant that no potentate had firmly controlled territories outside of those under their direct control. This was not only a significant disadvantage in terms of stability and authority of a reign of a potential king of Aquitania, only shared by the Post-Lotharian kings of Italy, but it also significantly weakened the aristocracy which increasingly grew content with just receiving honores or, in modern words, pledges. The potentates of Aquitania, ever since the ascension of Lothair III there, additionally started to avoid central authorities, a trend very noticeable in the following years and centuries. Nonetheless, no lord, however powerful, refused to recognize the king's theoretical supremacy. The name 'Aquitania' initially came to mean only a narrow belt of territory north of Bordeaux and Toulouse; but the kingdom of Aquitania, the ancient Aquitanian domain, survived not only in theory but with the death of Lothair III in practice for the first time since its conquest by the Frankish king Clovis I in 507. No potentate of the Aquitanian Kingdom was powerful enough to assert their hegemony over the others. The Aquitanian Powerful knew that and, after the threat of the Widonids of Neustria materialized in a violent acquisition of Bourges, were relieved to see a possible heir to Lothair III in their regnum.

Louis was crowned and anointed king of Aquitania in the presence of Bivin I of Burgundy, Odo II of Toulouse and delegates of both Ramnulf IV of Gascony and William II of Auvergne in Narbonne in 938. The most important part of the typical Aquitanian and early Neustrian coronation ceremonies were not the coronations themselves, but the so-called sacre – that is, the anointment or unction of the new king’s head or body with aromatic, holy oil. This was what differentiated the coronation of kings in Aquitania from those in Italy and Francia where oftentimes the placing of the crown on the head of the monarch was the most important of the ritual. This tradition usually freed the kings of Aquitania from the need for pontifical support and was therefore one stabilizing force for the regnum.

The need to select one of their own as their ruler was not as persistent in this region as it was in Neustria or Francia where a less urbanized population had a more testy relationship with the usually almost foreign and distant rulers. However, the election of Louis III didn’t go without controversies as many chroniclers attested a lack of many important noblemen showing up in the coronation, additionally, Louis III himself held no large estates in the kingdom, nor did he had stable allies outside of the Burgundian dukes as his later history would attest.
Nonetheless, the king might be feeble. He might be weaker than some of his great vassals. Nevertheless, the great vassals owed him homage, and it is significant that they performed it. The four great feudal lords at the time of the ascension to the Aquitanian throne had been in the juridical sense strictly bound to the king and had been his vassals, his 'men', however remarkable in other respects had been their independence of the monarchy.

The base of Louis III’s power was and remained in the East; he never stayed and would never reside in the areas west of Septimania. Outside of Gascony, where loyalty to the Carolingian dynasty was more pronounced, he was initially even welcomed in some places. However, resistance to his rule would soon develop even in Burgundy, although such resistance in the south was only local and had no concrete effects.

Not much has been handed down from the early years of the reign of Louis III. Therefore, unsurprisingly, these years are referred to be one of the least known periods of medieval Aquitania, for which the lack of a continuous biography dedicated to him may be partly responsible. Under his rule, the decay of royal authority against the strengthening feudal continued, against which he tried to fight for a long time. This was reflected, among other things, in his unknown epithet Municeps, which means something like "subjugator", which was added already during his lifetime by the abbots of St. Flour but is hardly known today. This epithet might be explained by his actions in Auvergne: After William II died in 940, Louis tried to take the opportunity to add the county of Auvergne to a royal domain. However, here, he encountered the resistance of the Auvergnian nobility under the leadership of Count Aymard of Clarmont, who himself made a claim to the Duchy through his mother Beatrice, sister of the deceased Count. Only after Aymard conquered Le Puy in 942 did Louis III withdraw his claims, a heavy blow for the young king. Louis III reached a compromise with the nobility of Auvergne by further maintaining the autonomy of Auvergne through the formal appointment of Aymard as the count.

Louis III during the early 940s was nonetheless attested to have had a good sense for education and piety by letters sent between various abbeys and dioceses. Helgaud of St. Flour recognized certain expertise of Louis III in the subjects of theology and canon law. Bishop Stephan of Clarmont dedicated the text In Regno Dei to the king, in which he described the three-way division of human society into clergymen, fighters or nobles and the peasants he called “workers”. This is one of the earliest descriptions of the feudal social order that shaped the high Middle Ages.

The king’s reign in Aquitania was therefore not particularly remarkable. If the situation hadn’t escalated in Lotharingia and Italy, Louis III might very well have been one of the least known kings of history. But the situation did escalate, and thus his notorious legacy wasn’t lost to the never-ending passage of time [2].

Louis III and his wife Alda as depicted in a 15th-century manuscript on the history of Burgundy [3].

Louis III is crowned King of Aquitania in Narbonne.

[1] IOTL, the Bosonids did have their fair share of members trying to acquire or actually getting the imperial title in Italy. But that mostly happened because there was an active power vacuum just waiting to be filled there, which we didn’t have in this timeline so far. Additionally, the Bosonids are more engaged in Aquitanian politics as a result of the rather strong positions of the margraves of Italy and have therefore something to gain or to lose of they are able to gain the favor of the king. Thus, in this timeline, they take a backseat, supporting the only claimant to the throne of Aquitania.
[2] Let's just say that you shouldn't forget about him yet. The next updates will focus on Neustria and then Francia, so stay tuned!
[3] The watermark has nothing to do with the timeline, as of now. I think.
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CHAPTER 1.XXIV: From a Gambit to a War
Excerpt: A Shattered Continent: Europe, 800-1000 – Kamila Boutaris, Löthener Kulturverein (AD 1989)

The archbishop of Rheims, Raoul of Beaumont, noted in 934, that “the king was dead and a quiet peace haunted the lands”. Indeed, news of the death of Lothair III only slowly trickled through the constituent kingdoms of the Carolingian Empire. The regnum Neustriae, or the Kingdom of Neustria, in particular, was not as urbanized as Aquitania or Italy, yet it harbored many larger counties and duchies that yet had to go through the feudal revolution that swept through South.

In the years after 925 little had changed in the quadripolar web of personal ties and ambitions. Campania lost its lordship over Vermandois after a mediation between Theobald I and his cousin Herbert III of Vermandois was decided in favor of the latter. Subjects of William Lackland, duke of the Normans, increasingly swore their loyalty to the Counts of Lisieux which promised tax breaks for those who betray their old lord. And Duke Adalhard I of Maine, now a man in his upper 40s, waged some raids against the Counts of Auvergne in Aquitania with the support of the Dukes of Gascony. This resulted in many changes in the sizes of the various feudatories of Neustria and Aquitania: Berry, for example, moved to the sphere of influence of the Dukes of Maine, and Poitou was considered to be now a constituent part of the Kingdom of Aquitania.

These changes were a consequence of the relatively long reign of Lothair III which allowed for more intense interactions within the Carolingian Empire and across the variable and ever-so-unclear borders of its sub-kingdoms. Thus, the Treaty of Orléans of 852 which was signed to establish more precise boundaries between the two kingdoms, largely fell apart with dire consequences for those who seek peace in times of widespread anxiety. For now, there was a delicate balance between the four men, held together by their common overlord.

It seems that news of the death of the emperor reached Neustria only in the middle of 934, with no clear instructions on how to proceed with this situation. The most natural successor appeared to be one of the four sons of Lothair III, yet, by 935 it was clear that the two oldest sons, Charles II and Louis III, have established their rules in Italy and Aquitania respectively. The 14-year-old boy Henry was proclaimed king of the Franks in Aachen with the support of the Franconians and Bavarians [1]. By 936, it became clear that the Babenbergs of Franconia had sent the youngest son of Lothair III, Odo, towards Aachen in Lotharingia where he should be crowned King of Neustria and Lotharingia. This caused much uproar in the Anti-Carolingian factions of Neustria which had emerged in the time emperor Lothair III had abandoned the regnum Neustriae in favor of Italy and Francia where he had spent most of his time. This doesn’t mean that there was no support in a continued Carolingian rule over Neustria, especially the ecclesiastical class did remember Lothair III and his father Odo I fondly. Those who opposed the growing Widonid influence over much of Neustria also found themselves supporting Odo I under a regency council led by one chosen by the potentates of the nation, especially Theobald I of Campania and William Lackland, Duke of the Normans became enthusiastic supporters of a continued Carolingian rule over Neustria in accordance with the apparently successful continued Carolingian presence elsewhere.

The idea of elections never gave way completely before. It survived in the homage which every new king received from all his vassals at his accession, and, in a symbolic form, in the acclamatio which accompanied the ceremony of anointing, and which had always been more than a mere symbol. Yet, for the first time since the ascendancy of the Carolingians, these elections were not a farce held to have a symbolic meaning, no, these elections would decide the fate of the regnum Neustriae.

Adalhard I’s exact date of birth is unknown, but he was first mentioned before the turn of the century as the oldest son of Wipert I and his wife Adelaide of Paris, the sister of the last Girardid Count of Paris. Adalhard I of Maine, as the Duke of Neustria and head of the Widonid family, played an important role in the politics of the Neustrian Kingdom; he was able to significantly expand his family's traditional position of power by additionally acquiring the County of Paris and even a claim to Berry which was almost recognized by the emperor. In many ways, Adalhard I was more powerful than the emperor himself. The Widonid family had been rivaling the Carolingian dynasty since the 9th century but had yet to provide a king. Therefore, the oldest living Widonid was always a potential candidate for the royal title, but Adalhard I seemed to shy away from reaching for the crown.

Odo, the youngest son of Lothair III, who had been completely overlooked when Lothair III went to war against the Magyars, now claimed the Neustrian throne. The infant didn’t claim the throne himself, of course, as he was under the supervision of both Johanna of Franconia, his mother, and her nephew Henry of Franconia. However, they failed to attract many noblemen due to powerful aristocratic circles, among them Count Thibaut of Chartres who met his brother Bishop Richard of Soissons, one of the few clerics with a deep superstition against the descendants of Charles Martel left, to organize a rigged election in Soissons where Adalhard I would be crowned King of the Neustrians. Archbishop Raoul, his supervisor, didn’t object to this move. At a meeting in Soissons, Odo's opponents voted Adalhard I of Maine to become the new king, exercising their right to vote and denying the rights of inheritance of Odo, in effect ending the Carolingian Dynasty in Neustria. The potentates who chose Adalhard I as king were mostly the same ones who had approved the takeover of Lothair III after his father Odo I descended into madness. For many, including the Widonids, the change of dynasty was not the result of a fundamental dissatisfaction with the Carolingian ruling class, but of the special constellation that arose with the death of Lothair III.

While most vassals of the crown supported or accepted the dynasty change, the Campanian Duke Theobald I and Henry of Franconia were furious and did not accept this development and began the armed struggle for his claim to the throne. Henry of Franconia and his aunt Johanna had made powerful enemies in Neustria. The former queen was now accused of adultery, and the archbishop of Rheims, who traditionally performed the coronation, now stood behind Adalhard I. Yet, in 938, Henry succeeded in taking the royal city of Laon which he took with the help of Odo’s distant relative Count Louis II of Laon. In Laon, Henry captured Bishop Hugh of Laon, once a prominent supporter of the Widonids. Other important supporters of a continued Carolingian dynasty were the Count Robert II of Blois and the Archbishop Michael of Sens, the latter presumably joining the cause of Odo due to a traditional rivalry between the Archdiocese of Sens and Rheims. Otherwise, however, the actions of Odo were not very well received by the nobility. Nonetheless, repeated attempts by King Adalhard I and his son Wipert to recapture Laon by siege were unsuccessful.

When Archbishop Raoul of Beaumont died in early 940, Adalhard I decided to install Robert II of Blois' nephew Denis as Raoul's successor, in order to pull him over to his side. However, this plan failed; and in July 941 Denis opened the gates of Rheims for Henry of Franconia and Odo, breaking the oaths made with Adalhard I. By taking the place of coronation, Rheims, Odo's position was strengthened, and he substantiated his claim to the throne with a symbolic royal election and coronation in Rheims. Four years of armed and diplomatic struggle ensued, generally known as Years of the Two Kings, which however ended in a bitter note for the Carolingians. Bishop Hugh of Laon, who had in the meantime gained the trust of Henry of Franconia, opened the city gates of Laon to the troops of the Widonids at the end of April 946. The young boy Odo and his mother Johanna were arrested, and Henry fled towards Francia, to the court of King Henry I. A show trial and absurd sentencing for both in Senlis seem to be a myth, yet Odo and his mother Johanna were sent away to monasteries across Neustria, with Odo becoming a monk and, later on, abbot of Montier-en-Der in East Neustria.

Hugh of Laon's betrayal caused a sensation and remained a popular subject of historiography and entertainment literature for centuries in and outside of Neustria; oftentimes it was compared to Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Christ.
Adalhard I’s accession was due as much to the silent intrigues of Archbishop Raoul of Rheims as to his own personal actions. Contemporary opinion probably did not look upon the occasion as the inauguration of a new dynasty, the Widonids had a somewhat significant maternal Carolingian ancestry after all. We may even suspect that those who elected Adalhard I as king would not have done so, had they been able to read the future. The great feudal magnates north of the Loire who chose the Duke of Neustria to be their ruler had no intention of committing themselves to his descendants. Indeed, everything suggested that they would react to his death as they had done to that of the last Carolingian, Lothair III, and make a free choice of a successor. In the meantime, however, Adalhard I was almost universally recognized as the ruler of the Neustrian regnum. Only the ever-rebellious Anscarids of the Duchy of Burgundy under Reginald II [2] would not declare their loyalty to the Widonid throne, which can be explained through complicated dynastic and territorial feud between the Bosonids of Provence and the Anscarids of Mâcon.

Of the first royal Widonid, King Adalhard I, the founder of the dynasty, next to nothing is known. Modern scholars came to the conclusion that it was impossible to reconstruct a portrait of him as we know nothing of his physical appearance and little of his character. He seemed to have been pious, and enjoyed the company of monks, yet liked ostentation and display, and was more of a diplomat than a warrior. Hardly anything else can confidently be said of him.
In the medieval era, the legality of the dynastic change in Neustria and Adalhard I himself were controversial among European historians and chroniclers of the time; there certainly was no shortage of contemporary voices that described Adalhard I as a usurper. The ascension of the Widonids in Neustria offended many Carolingian loyalists of both Neustria and Aquitania. It is, therefore, no surprise that tensions heightened in the coming decades, not only because of the aforementioned anti-Carolingian party that ruled over Neustria but particularly also due to the undefined borders of the two kingdoms.

The first task of Adalhard I and his descendants, however, seemed to be to establish their own dynasty firmly, to ensure its continuance on the throne, and to win for it a religious prestige and thereby the veneration of the people it had solemnly taken upon itself to govern. Meanwhile they had to organize the practical means of carrying on good government, making use of the prerogatives which the social organization of medieval Neustria put at their disposal.

Adalhard I, painted by Tristan Duras.

The Election of Soissons. Widonid Duke Adalhard I of Maine is crowned king of the Neustrians, at the cost of the Carolingian heir, and infant son of Lothair III, Odo. A diplomatic and military struggle for the crown ensues.
946: Odo and his mother Johanna of Franconia are arrested in Laon. The Years of the Two Kings end in a Widonid victory.

[1] Next updates will cover it as well, don’t worry.
[2] Already mentioned that the Anscarids will stay in Burgundy in this timeline.
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Am I correct in interpreting Henry I as Lothair III's son, and Henry of Franconia as Lothair III's Babenberg nephew-by-marriage? Given the earlier hints that the Babenbergs become kings of Francia, it doesn't seem safe to rule out the other way around.
Am I correct in interpreting Henry I as Lothair III's son, and Henry of Franconia as Lothair III's Babenberg nephew-by-marriage? Given the earlier hints that the Babenbergs become kings of Francia, it doesn't seem safe to rule out the other way around.
Absolutely correct, sorry for the confusion I might have caused. I should have made it a bit more clear.

And, to be honest, it is sometimes quite hard to get a solid grasp on the various names as well, especiqlly with the sheer amount of names beginning with Adal- (seriously, even our timeline is brimmed with them).
Yet, I try to be as realistic as possible with most names I have to come up with.
Both Henrys, namely Henry of Franconia, son of Babenberg Duke Adalbert I of Franconia, and Henry I of Francia, son of infamous Lothair III, are named after their common progenitor Henry I of Franconia, grandfather of both of them. But I'll try to get away from these very common names sooner or later, which shouldn't be that hard considering that the West Frankish Widonids of our timeline usually picked Lambert or Wipert as their sons' names, for example.

The next update will take a closer look at Francia/OTL Germany, I'll try to portray the dynastic ties there more clearly. Thank you for your interest in my TL!
Amazing updates, the timeline keeps getting better and better. I have a few questions.

Will Neustria become more involved with the affairs of Bretland considering their proximity to each other?

Is the Carolingian renavatio over now that Lothair III is dead?

Will the increased fortification of the Neustrian coast force Norse to also settle in greater numbers on the Eastern Baltic Coast as well?
Amazing updates, the timeline keeps getting better and better. I have a few questions.
Thank you for your interest in my timeline, stuff like this motivates me to continue on!

Will Neustria become more involved with the affairs of Bretland considering their proximity to each other?
Certainly. Neustria is located at the gates of the Christian world for the Bretlandic kinglets, there are already embassies regularly exchanged between Neustria and Wessex way before the PoD for example, and they still continue to be held at the courts of the respective kings. Normandy is extensively trading with Angland which itself became a hotspot for trans-Scandinavian trades and mercantile activities. Of course all of this happens within the technological frame of the period, most things only move as fast as the fastest horse or ship of the time. Nonetheless, this is slowly but steadily moving Bretland and Neustria closer.

What I haven't mentioned yet and what will certainly impact the Neustrian economy and liturgy is that the survival of Guthrum's Anglia led to a general increase in Norse raiding activities in the Channel. Due to the aforementioned establishments of the Duchies of Lisieux and Normandy in the North and the increased fortification virtually everywhere in the former Carolingian Empire, they aren't as disastrous as the lootings of the 9th century, yet are growing increasingly annoying to contain, especially if there is a certain now-Christian Anglo-Danish kingdom that may or may not supply them to keep the Wessexians busy. So it's not always puppies and kittens up there, and tensions over this are slowly heightening again.

Is the Carolingian renavatio over now that Lothair III is dead?
The Carolingian renovatio was extended in this timeline by some decades thanks to lucky coincidences in Lotharingia as mentioned in Chapter 1.XVIII. Things didn't change much once Lothair III ultimately passes away in 932, but, as we'll soon see, Lotharingia had the unlucky fate to be put in place between two other kingdoms who lay claims on the entirety of the kingdom: Neustria claims the Lotharingian regnum through the legal abolishment of Lotharingia Proper under Lothair III and the prior union (with interruptions) of Neustria and Lotharingia since Lothair II while Francia is still technically Carolingian, thus has a right through blood ties on the throne. Additionally, Lotharingia harbours many important sites and cities such as Aachen, Straßburg and Metz and many sympathizers are increasingly growing restless over the very tense situation there. Really, the Carolingian renovatio will end because most contributing to it will have to engage in the politics of this new Europe.

The shorter answer: No, not yet, but it won't take too long before it too passes.

Will the increased fortification of the Neustrian coast force Norse to also settle in greater numbers on the Eastern Baltic Coast as well?
Iceland was most likely fully settled by the first half of the 10th century. Scandinavia itself is now thanks to the butterflies leading to the disastrous Battle of Barkåker a sea of shards, certainly messier than in our timeline. The story of the Norsemen is certainly not over yet, let me tell you that.
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CHAPTER 1.XXV: The Ascension of Henry I
Excerpt: The Carolingian World and how it functioned – Godwin Albertsson, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1899)

Until then, the history of the Frankish stem duchies mirrored late Carolingian conditions, sharing the same characteristic features that can also be found in Neustria and Aquitania. However, the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, which according to some experts must have started even before Lothair III's death, created new structures of rule and government. Especially in the larger Frankish estates such as Bavaria and Franconia, now only one son could inherit the areas, the territories were thus no longer divided according to the Carolingian and Merovingian tradition. It was no coincidence that Henry's accession to the throne was a first example of the changes emerging in East Francia.

Henry’s parents were Emperor Lothair III and his Franconian wife Johanna. He was born near Salerno in Meridia in 919, shortly after his father’s Siege of Melfi. Henry’s life was uneventful before the Battle of the Wenzelbach, but it is known that Henry was very often very ill and oftentimes physically too weak to perform complex tasks. Thus it was clear by that point of time that he might be considered for an ecclesiastical career with his two older brothers pursuing a more political education. By 928, he was sent to the monastery of St. Emmeram in Regensburg where he was cared for by the Bishop of the city named Isangrim. Despite his, even for this time, very tender age of only nine, Henry seemed to enjoy the more secluded life away from the court of his father, the Emperor of the Franks.

This, like all things, suddenly changed with the abrupt death of Lothair III in the Battle of the Wenzelbach. Through this event, Henry became the center of the political happenings of Francia as the oldest presently available heir of both Francia and Neustria. With that, his mother Johanna of Franconia shifted to the public focus of the Frankish tribes: as the daughter of the now geriatric duke Adalbert I of Franconia and the sister of Adalbert I’s surviving son and heir to the stem duchy, Henry, and as the, admittedly former, empress, she held considerable power over the decision-making in Francia. Predictably, Dudo, the archbishop of Mainz, a staunch loyalist to the Carolingians, and Henry of Franconia, who most likely assumed the political control over Franconia by 930, invited Henry and his mother Johanna and his legal guardian Bishop Isangrim to his city at the Rhine to discuss further proceedings as trouble was brewing in the North and the South of Francia.

In the South we find the stem duchy of Swabia, also called Alemannia, a wealthy territory located at a strategically favorable position at the gates of the remaining regna of the former Carolingian Empire. After the death of Burchard II, the margrave of Rhaetia (which at the time was only used to refer to the upper reaches of the Rhine), his rival Erchanger II of the Alaholfings assumed the duchy for himself and was able to hold on to this position for a long period, because, among other things, he appeased the lower nobility and the emperor himself. Those who still opposed him or requested the reinstallation of the son of Burchard II, Burchard (III), were defeated in 929 at the Battle of Cannstatt, essentially establishing almost total Alaholfing control over Swabia. The policy of carrot and stick eventually cost him his life at Straßburg in late 930, but his efforts to achieve power in Swabia at least ensured the continued existence of a Swabian duchy, even if they earned him the epithet “the Cruel”. There is only limited information about the political position and the scope of the rule of Erchanger II: On behalf of the king, Erchanger II has exercised the right to collect taxes from the imperial church. He also called other Swabian counts to his diets and tried to assert his rule beyond his base of operations, in particular towards the Alsace where his ambitions were, however, quickly grounded by Bishop Werner of Straßburg.

After the death of Erchanger II, a struggle for the position of his successor broke out. Since Burchard (III) was still alive and now old enough to serve as duke of Swabia, many opponents of Erchanger II which were exiled to the Alpine regions near St. Gallen and Konstanz rose up and proclaimed the restoration of the Burchardings as the Swabian dukes. Erchanger II, however, secured his succession through the public appointment of his son Berchthold II in 929 by none other than Lothair III himself who used this opportunity to restore peace to the troubled South. That his cordial relations to the court palatine Erchanger II might have influenced this decision isn’t outside of the scope of possibilities either, of course. Thus, Lothair III created a precedent for who was or should be responsible for the investment of fiefdoms, further developing the emerging feudal structure within Francia. Nonetheless, Berchthold II was only around 10 years old at the time, and although the diocese of Chur was later on awarded a realm that the duke had previously ruled himself, especially the mountainous South of Swabia proved hard to control during these times of peril, despite its economic and political importance.

In Saxony, a rebellion against Liudolf II conducted by his half-brother Otto with the support of the Slavic tribes of Northalbingia and Polabia broke out. While not a very impactful event, it seems that the Franconians feared that an anti-Carolingian party may arise in Saxony.

This situation pressured the present counts, dukes, and bishops to form a stable government around the heir-apparent Henry who was crowned in Aachen, Lotharingian territory, on the throne of Charlemagne. Certainly, the sight of a child on the throne of the rulers who united the lands of Gallia, Italia and Germania might be macabre or even morbid, but it proved to be a satisfactory compromise to those noblemen fearing movements of the anti-Carolingian faction.

All of this made Franconia under the rulers Adalbert I and Henry play a key role in supporting the policies of Lothair III and his successors in Francia; Adalbert I, in the name of Henry I, would support his “brother in arms”, the duke of Swabia Berchthold II and he would stay on the side of the child until he finally pacified the revolt near St. Gallen by 941.

The peace that ensued would turn Franconia to the core of an increasingly independent Eastern Empire. Within Franconia, the Babenberger Dynasty was by far the strongest power, especially after the expulsion and extermination of the Conradines. However, the Babenberger counts, bishops and dukes had not only strengthened their position within the empire militarily and as part of the prestige struggles among the greats of the empire, but also on the level of “legitimation”, and, due to their marriage ties to the Late Carolingians, their relationship with the other potentates of Francia didn’t play an inconsiderable role either. But Lothair III and Adalbert I were well aware of this. Since 918, the latter has appeared in almost every second document handed down through the generations. He is mostly emphasized as a blood relative, consanguineus, of the king, and Lothair III in turn calls Adalbert I, despite the age gap, his nepos in those. The Babenberger thus from early on occupied the position of a secundus a rege, a second after the king. The transition of the de-facto rule over Francia to the Franconian dukes after the sudden end of the united Carolingian Empire was therefore by no means a surprise to contemporaries.

But while Adalbert I was able to secure the political power of his family within Francia, he died rather unceremoniously from dysentery in Frankfurt in 943 without leaving an heir in Francia, with his only son Henry of Franconia troubled with a failing campaign in Neustria. Territories directly controlled by Adalbert I, most of them centered around Kissingen, an unnotable village in Southern Franconia near Fulda, were thus moved to Henry I’s royal domain, the first of its kind for any Carolingian king in the region.
Adalbert I, as head of the regency council around Henry I, also failed to coalesce support for the Frankish king in Lotharingia which was stuck in a limbo between the expanding Widonid-Neustrian sphere of influence and the slowly stabilizing Babenberger-Carolingian-Frankish kingdom. Lotharingia was rich in resources and cities, but cannot be easily defined nor defended, independence was therefore not a feasible option for most potentates of the region, not to mention that Lothair III didn't leave behind any instructions on how to handle the important regnum. Therefore, a crisis regarding the allegiance and affiliation of this region was inevitable, and without the strong and experienced hand of Adalbert I guiding the kingdom through the stormy sea, it didn't look too well for Francia.

Contemporary drawing of Adalbert I, embracing his daughter Johanna of Franconia.

The Election of Aachen. Henry, son of Lothair III, is crowned king of the Franks in Aachen.

OOC: Ehm, well, long time no see. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the unwillingness of certain institutions of the country I reside in to adapt and overcome the challenges in an effective way, I don't have that much time left to research and write this timeline. I'm certainly not abandoning it, but I wouldn't expect weekly updates for it either. I hope you can forgive me, but find solace in the fact that I want to devote more time to it.
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I'll humbly self-bump in order to shift the focus to the poll I've added regarding the future of my little timeline. I just like to say two things:
First of all, I'm in a quite learn-intensive course in a university where things have gotten a bit more serious, content-wise that is, and I have less time at my hands than before. I'm deeply saddened by these circumstances, but resistance is futile and I'll just have to accept this new reality for now. This does in no way mean I'm leaving this wonderful board, but it certainly implies that I have to change the handling of my timeline. Either I'll stick to the longer, more thorough posts of before, at the cost of regular updates of the timeline, or I'll make a bit shorter, less thorough, but way more frequent posts regarding the state of affairs of this world. Research-wise, things will stay the same for me, it's really just a matter of taste; do you want to hear from obscure counties or families that impacted the world in a different way than our own? Or is it just not worth the time? As I said, I intend to write this timeline for as long as possible, and I already have some things in mind for the next decades and even century/centuries, but I don't know how my beloved readers like to see me handle this. Therefore, I've created the poll above, please vote so that I can get some feedback regarding my proposals.

Speaking of feedback, we're now located almost a century away after the original PoD, with more than thirty threadmarked posts regarding the state of Europe and its immediate neighbors. To celebrate it, I was working on a map of Europe which I'll post as soon as we've dealt with the hinted troubles in Lotharingia and the ambitions of some to reunite the empire. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think that the time has come for some general feedback regarding the timeline so far. Was the writing too sloppy, too stale, too... bad? Were the depicted historic events silly or did I conduct only shallow research? Would you like to see the timeline continued in the first place? I'd like to hear some of your thoughts, it's just hard to improve without some feedback outside of the likes and the kind compliments I receive which I really, really, really appreciate. But I fear that this may devolve into some kind of echo chamber without some critical voice(s) and I'd really like to hear what I could do better in regards to the timeline.
Thank you in advance!
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I'll humbly self-bump in order to shift the focus to the poll I've added regarding the future of my little timeline. I just like to say two things:
First of, I'm in a quite learn-intensive course in an university where things have gotten a bit more serious, content-wise that is, and I have less time at my hands than before. I'm deeply saddened by these circumstances, but resistance is futile and I'll just have to accept this new reality for now. This does in no way mean I'm leaving this wonderful board, but it certainly implies that I have to change my handling of my timeline. Either I'll stick to the longer, more thorough posts of before, at the cost of regular updates of the timeline, or I'll make a bit shorter, less thorough, but way more frequent posts regarding the state of affairs of this world. Research-wise, things will stay the same for me, it's really just a matter of taste; do you want to hear from obscure counties or families that impacted the world in a different way than our own? Or is it just not worth the time? As I said, I intend to write this timeline for as long as possible, and I already have some things in mind for the next decades and even century/century, but I don't know how my beloved readers like to see me handle this. Therefore, I've created the poll above, please vote so that I can get some feedback regarding my proposals.

Speaking of feedback, we're now located almost a century away after the original PoD, with more than thirty threadmarked posts regarding the state of Europe and its immediate neighbours. To celebrate it, I was working on a map of Europe which I'll post as soon as we've dealt with the hinted troubles in Lotharingia and the ambitions of some to reunite the empire. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think that the time has come for some general feedback regarding the timeline so far. Was the writing too sloppy, too stale, too... bad? Were the depicted historic events silly or did I conduct only shallow research? Would you like to see the timeline continued in the first place? I'd like to hear some of your thoughts, it's just hard to improve without some feedback outside of the likes and the kind compliments I receive which I really, really, really appreciate. But I fear that this may devolve into some kind of echo chamber without some critical voice(s) and I'd really like to hear what I could do better in regards to the timeline.
Thank you in advance!
I went ahead and voted for longer posts, but either one works for me. Whichever is easier for you is my vote. So far I've really enjoyed reading this TL. Medieval history is very outside my area of knowledge, but I've been trying to get more into it lately. I can't really speak as to the plausibly of everything, but I think it has been very well written and enjoyable. So keep up the amazing work!
I went ahead and voted for longer posts, but either one works for me. Whichever is easier for you is my vote. So far I've really enjoyed reading this TL. Medieval history is very outside my area of knowledge, but I've been trying to get more into it lately. I can't really speak as to the plausibly of everything, but I think it has been very well written and enjoyable. So keep up the amazing work!
Trust me when I'm saying this, if you had asked me three years ago when and why Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome or why Francia did in the end split, I wouldn't have been able to give you a proper answer. But as time passed, I was able to coalesce a little bit of knowledge through some papers I've read physically or online and I don't regret that a single bit. In my very humble opinion, medieval history gives us a beautiful insight into the inner workings of humanity, from societal structures and ambitions of those who were able to participate in it to the ingenuity and faith of those who have lived on this planet a long time ago. I'm sadly no expert in any historic area, so I'm very glad that I was able to make you enjoy my little thought experiment. It means a lot to me <3

By the way, I'm also open to questions regarding the state of affairs outside of the former Frankish Empire, as time doesn't stand still for anyone outside the Carolingian sphere either and most of Europe already had its fair share of butterflies. From this point onwards, for the remaining sixty years of the 10th century of this timeline, we'll mostly focus on Western and Central Europe with around a dozen minor updates on Poland, al-Andalus and what the Rhomanoi in Constantinople under its new dynasty are up to, so anything specifically related to things totally not mentioned in the timeline so far are especially welcome.
Trust me when I'm saying this, if you had asked me three years ago when and why Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome or why Francia did in the end split, I wouldn't have been able to give you a proper answer.
Well, three years ago i was passing for what someone could call semi-depression and i didn't even speak english yet, if you asked it for me at the time my response would be Who the hell is Charlemagne? :p, so don't feel bad about it, damn, i think i didn't even know who participated in WW1 three years ago x'D, IIRC i hated history in general. At least for the case of personal change, three years is quite a lot of time.

I voted for the long-but-irregular updates, simply because for me it feels more complete in general, and anyway, makes read each chapter a more eventful thing to do :), i personally like quite a lot the idea of this timeline and will be reading regardless.

Edit: idk why i'm saying that but sorry for the way-too-much emojis i think, lol
Well, three years ago i was passing for what someone could call semi-depression and i didn't even speak english yet, if you asked it for me at the time my response would be Who the hell is Charlemagne? :p, so don't feel bad about it, damn, i think i didn't even know who participated in WW1 three years ago x'D, IIRC i hated history in general. At least for the case of personal change, three years is quite a lot of time.
I think everyone, when young and naive, will eventually develop silly ideas about the history of mankind, so I wouldn't blame anyone having developed questionable views of history, especially if they never really interacted with it.

I voted for the long-but-irregular updates, simply because for me it feels more complete in general, and anyway, makes read each chapter a more eventful thing to do :), i personally like quite a lot the idea of this timeline and will be reading regardless.
I have to thank you for your kind words, and since the consensus seems to follow your opinion as well, I think I'll go back to the 2k or 2k+ words per chapter guideline, although I think I will occasionally release minor updates on minor stuff I think is worth a mention and interesting on its own.
I'll repeat myself, but thank you and everyone else for the compliments, this is a huge boon for my motivation to continue to work on my little timeline.
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CHAPTER 1.XXVI: Charles the Unfortunate
Excerpt: The Letter of Emperor Charles II of Italy to King Louis III of Aquitania, 940 AD – translated by Rupert Kesserling, University of Kaiserswerth (AD 1901)

1. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ the eternal God. Charles, by the workings of divine providence, august emperor of the Romans, to our most beloved and spiritual brother Louis, the most glorious and most pious king of Aquitania.

2. It is certainly a good thing and praiseworthy for someone to be kindled to the flame of charity by the advice of brothers, as if by puffs of air. But it is even better to be eagerly set alight to this by the actions of one’s own spontaneous will. And it is best of all for someone to take the path of virtue and to climb higher and higher, with great success. For that miles who bravely assaults the enemy’s forces after his arrival is always more loved by the commander than those who arrive speedily, yet do nothing or at least very little thereafter.

3. Following this rule, and from the day in which it planted the root of love for your Fraternity in its heart, our divinely raised rule has not ceased to bring forth its many fruits, attending to and avenging your concerns as much as our own. Although you boast of what you did for our envoys for the sake of friendship and kindness, it is clear that we did the same before for Rostagnus the most celebrated bishop of Arelat, whom in truth we treated not like a friend or like the man of our brother, that is of your rulership, but rather we dealt with and loved him as if he was our kinsman, and the offspring of Your Excellence. While he was with us he did not suffer any delays, nor was he forbidden from any of our intimate chambers.

4. And we are amazed that Your spiritual Fraternity is argumentative, using so many longwinded phrases. This goes against the Apostle who said ‘If anyone wants to be argumentative, neither we nor the church of God have that as a custom’. For the dignity of rule rests with God not in word or name, but in the glorious summits of piety. And we do not find remarkable what we are called: it is what we are that is noteworthy. However, since you wrote a great deal to us about the imperial name we carry, we are obliged to respond to your letters, in case if we remain silent on the matter, we are should be thought by the foolish to be silent not to avoid dispute, but as if proved wrong by reason.

5. Your Love indicates that you fear the curse of the law, and therefore you refuse to move the eternal boundaries, and to change and overturn, against canonical and paternal precepts, the forms of ancient emperors. And yet you do not openly declare which boundaries, which ancient forms, which canonical and paternal precepts these are, or when or how they were established, unless perhaps you wish all these things to be considered above the name of emperor. Over here with us, in truth, many books have been read, and many are tirelessly being read, yet never have we found that boundaries were set out, or that forms or precepts were issued, so that no-one is to be called rex in Aquitania except whoever happens to hold the order and charity of the august emperor in the city of Rome.

6. Indeed, our Brothers in Aquitania, Neustria, Lotharingia and Germania ought to await our permission to exercise the rule given to them through our beneficence, yet Your Prudence will consider it pointless to argue that none should be called king of Aquitania apart from yourself, unless you think that the books of all the world should be erased, in which the leaders of almost all the peoples from ancient times and thenceforth are found to be called ordained by the august emperor of Rome.

7. Indeed, You say also that our imperial crown was given through the beneficence of the hands and prayer of the highest pontiff of which we we are divinely raised to this height and that we should be thankful for him to do that. But neither does reason demand this from us, nor does it need to be felt. Firstly, since it is not fitting for us to intervene in the divinely office. Secondly, since the highest pontiff has – on the other hand – intervened into our divinely office. Thirdly, because we know that, both patriarchs and all other people under this heaven, except Your Fraternity, both office-holders and private citizens, do support us in our cleansing of the frivolous, as often as we receive letters and writings from them. […] And we find that our loyal subjects call us emperor without any envy and say without any doubt that we are the emperor, not taking age into account – for they are older than us – but considering instead unction and the blessing by which, through the laying on of hands and prayer of the highest pontiff, we have been divinely raised to this height and to the rulership of the Roman principality, which we hold by heavenly permission and through the birthright given through our beloved father Lothair Magnus. […]

9. And we do not believe that the possessed parasite and intruder to the Church of St. Peter Benedict, fourth of his name, is pious and just, for he has betrayed the faith through action against the divine will, for he has agitated against our divine office and our just mission to restore peace in the church. And we do believe that the highest pontiff, the pious Leo, sixth of his name, is pious and just, for he has reaffirmed the role of the august emperor of Rome. […]

10. Indeed, we are justified in feeling some astonishment that your Serenity believes we are not allowed to intervene in our realm of Aquitania, for the august emperor of Rome is the august emperor of all Rome. For as much as you are our brother and of the same lineage and descent of us, it is neither new nor recent for the emperor to rule over Italia, Aquitania, Neustria, Austrasia, Francia, as tradition set fourth from Charles Magnus, first of his name, to ourselves. Thus, for all old things have their beginning in novelty, we are forced to ask of You to accept this novelty, and for us to rule with our brothers in the realm given to us. But you assert that we do not rule in all Francia. But we indeed do rule in all Francia and indeed it is beyond all doubt we hold whatever our brothers hold with whom we are from one flesh and blood, and by this one sprit through the Lord. Your beloved Fraternity moreover indicates you are surprised that we are called emperor of the Romans, not of the Italians or the Franks. But you should know that the emperor of the Romans is the emperor of the Franks as it is the emperor of the Aquitanians and Goths and Gallians and Austrasians and Toxandrians and so forth. We derive this title and dignity from the Romans, amongst whom the first summit of glory and exaltation shone out and whose people and city we divinely received to govern, and whose church, the mother of all the churches of God, we received to defend and raise up. From this church the seed of our ancestors took up the authority first of ruling as kings, and then of ruling as emperors. […]

13. Indeed, if you don’t incriminate the parasite from Ravenna for what he did to the Church of Rome, you must also incriminate us, who, rejecting the ill-guided and frivolous corrupting forces, did not scruple afterwards to bend to the new highest pontiff. Thus, if there is someone who dares to grumble against the Pope and us on this matter, he will not lack a response. […] Since things are so, why do you take such effort to criticize us, because we come from the Franks and have charge of the reins of the Roman empire, since in every people anyone who fears God is acceptable to Him? You are wrong to think that our rule doesn’t extend to your realm and you are wrong to say that you are not ordained to listen to our commands and orders. Our mercy and beneficence allows Our brother to rule in Your realm, and for certainly did we try to prevent ill and sins for You. And we do not find that You or anyone complained or grumbled that we are to take the Iron Crown. But Your Fraternity, which we love and support, appears to be attempting to do. […]

23. But dearest brother, you know that our army with the help of the great Creator has submitted Ravenna before and will do so again to our triumph in the way described above, and has wonderfully and quickly and wonderfully humiliated the agents of sins in our empire. And it has advised that they would soon be destroyed with God’s help.

24. Indeed, if things come to pass, we will reassert our privilege over our brothers and ask You to help us to restore the fruits of our father Lothair Magnus. With your support, it will be easier to resist the ill-guided with a divinely strengthened arm. […] But be warned, if You were to oppose us, you oppose the Church, and so if it happens, we will be deeply saddened and feel unimaginable sorrow. But our divine duty consists of freeing the Church from corruption and stopping the dreadful people from corruption the Church. And those who defile the sanctity of the Church of God and the title of august emperor, ordained by the will of the Lord, will be subject to divine punishment. [...]

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Excerpt: Medieval European History for Imbeciles – Arthur Lynch, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1910)

Q: What happened after the death of Lothair III?
A: What seemed to be the rebirth of the Carolingian Dynasty crashed with high speed against a wall: the outcome of the Battle of Wenzelbach was surprising for many contemporaries as the emperor was still quite young and it was generally expected for him to survive for another decade or even two. His sudden end left the already overextended empire and its powerful noblemen and clerics with no clear plans on how to proceed with such an extraordinary situation, and grudges and ambitions which were previously buried away from the sight of the king of six thrones now resurfaced. As customs and court culture differed throughout the empire, the nobles took vastly different approaches. While the Carolingians were able to firmly establish their rule in Francia and Aquitania, the rule of Charles II in Italy was hotly contested by the pope and noblemen fearing an intrusion into their extensive rights and Neustria fell under the rule of the emerging Guidonid Dynasty of Maine.

Q: What was Charles’ goal in writing this letter to his brother Louis?
A: While he does recognize the right of his brother Louis III to rule over Aquitania, he is not content with Louis III’s independent actions and lack of political and military support to his faction in the escalating Ravenna Dispute of 939, and he is trying to persuade him to do that by arguing in favor of the imperial faction. Charles II seems to have believed that his imperial title allowed him to establish some sort of imperial prerogative over his brothers’ kingdoms in Aquitania and Francia which can be compared to what was originally intended as a political framework by the ordinatio imperii of Louis the Pious. He argues that the power of the imperial title was divinely ordained by the Church of God and given to him as his birthright, and thus transcends those of the individual royal titles of the kingdom who are an integral part of the Roman “principality”. Therefore he tries to issue a call to reason to Louis III who, as Charles II’s alleged subordinate, should support his self-declared righteous faction in the Ravenna Dispute. But reality looked grim for Charles II, since his dynasty not only lost control over Neustria, but his brothers acted as sovereign rulers over their respective kingdoms with no regards to the orders or interests of their brother who they evidently saw as their equal, not as their superior. In addition to that, contrary to what Charles states in his letter, he did not enjoy popular support within Italy from which, in the light of this latter, Charles himself most likely realized as well. Charles II's upbringing forced him to come in contact with the Italian governmental apparatus which was, due to strong and pervasive Italian communal traditions and ineffective policies from both the preceding emperors and popes, weak and he might have wanted to change that. But he needed assistance to change it, in opposition to the, at the time, popular and vocal demands to keep the autonomy of most counties and cities alive. The supreme goal of this latter might never be revealed, but the circumstances in which it was written hint towards Charles II actively seeking assistance from his brother against Ottwin I and Pope Benedict IV.

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Excerpt: Post-Carolingian Warfare – Godwin Albertsson, Whitewell Publishing (AD 1900)

Ottwin I of Ivrea, first of many anti-kings and anti-emperors to come in the post-Lotharian age, thus, led an attack near Perugia against Charles II's army consisting of his followers in an attempt to destroy the resolution of the emperor and throw the invading Carolingian faction into confusion and disarray.
Realizing that a decisive conflict was needed to prevent a prolonged campaign that would deplete the Papists' already overtaxed supply lines, Ottwin I sent all but his command army off to different villages near Charles II's camp in Arezzo where a local count invited him to resupply his forces. Ottwin I understood Charles II who had decided that killing Ottwin I was the easiest way to stop the opposition of the Papist forces within Italy, because Ottwin I himself had only one son, an incapable potential successor named Volkhold who didn't inherit the wit of his father, perhaps also because his death would likely mean infighting between the Giacomii and the other noblemen and clerics of Central Italy for power and upheaval in Italy.

Thus, Ottwin I most likely tried to act as bait, hoping that Charles II would not pass up the opportunity to engage Ottwin I with a numerically similar force and that he would be able to withstand the assault long enough to either win outright or have one of his trusted nobles return after hearing battle was joined.

After hearing that Ottwin I was waiting out for scouts to return to his camp near Lake Trasimeno, Charles II immediately dispatched his army to attack Ottwin I head-on, as predicted by Ottwin I.
What Charles II, with his lack of geographical understanding, did not know is that Lake Trasimeno only acted as some sort of decoy to trap him in the muddy swamp, which was known for being a hotspot for malarial infections. While the scholars at the time, and for that matter also those who preceded them, believed that from these swampy areas some sort of miasma was spreading out which could infect human beings who were exposed to it for too long. Nonetheless, the shallow waters of the lake are to this day a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos that were carrying the disease at the age of Ottwin I and Charles II. But whether or not Malaria and other illnesses can be transmitted through insects at the time did not matter, certainly not for Ottwin I who was only keen to see his forces obliterate the Carolingian faction.

What followed was never literally handed down, but can be reconstructed through reports of chroniclers of the time: Ottwin I had blocked the entrance to a small corridor where horses would not immediately sink into the muddy ground with an extensive network of covered holes to limit the ability of the Charles II's army to bring its slightly superior numbers and equipment to bear. Charles II probably noticed the scheme of Ottwin and most likely tasked a force to establishing something similar to a bridgehead to clear a path through the corridor by quickly filling the holes with dry earth. But this force came under heavy attack from Ottwin I's forces, with the dispatched Carolingian army suffering heavy casualties. Charles II was forced to divide his forces in a vain attempt to cover all these breaches of his front at once. However, his efforts were done in vain; these breaches proved to be yet another critical blow for Charles II, and the main Papist forces eventually passed through the path cleared by Charles II and his army. Nonetheless, the main Carolingian forces could not all come to grips with Ottwin I at once so smaller forces engaged, trying to draw off portions of the Papist army to destroy in detail. However, poor coordination made this less than successful. An unsuccessful stratagem devised by Charles II, by which his main cavalry would retreat towards the lake and deliberately create a gap in the Papist lines to potentially route the enemy, gave Ottwin I the opportunity to charge through the gap before it could be filled, in an attempt to kill the son of Lothair III who started the civil war in the first place. Charles II then personally intervened, almost instantly destroying the cohesion of the enemy soldiers and focussing on a tactical retreat towards Lake Trasimeno. At the moment Charles II and his army retreated, Ottwin I also pulled back to wait out Charles II's next moves on the battlefield.

Whether Ottwin I actually knew that this will be recognized as one of the first precedents of biological warfare is far from certain. But, he would continue to siege down Charles II's camp for at least five days after which the starving army was able to break the siege and flee from the battleground back to Arezzo. After another week, the first troubling signs of malarial infection among the soldiers were emerging, with widespread fevers and dysentery impacting the health of the army, as Pope Benedict IV would write down. "A divine punishment", he would note in his memoirs. Charles II himself would fall ill with what is probably dysentery after arriving at Arezzo, but, unlike some of the unfortunate soldiers, he survived the disease. Thus, while a victory of Ottwin I on the battlefield was achieved, he failed to end the civil war, which would continue to rage on in Italy.

Ottwin I receives a battle-standard from a bishop, most likely Bishop Roger I of Perugia.

The Battle of Lake Trasimeno. Charles II is defeated by Ottwin I who inflicts considerable damage on the Carolingian army with the help of malarial mosquitoes.
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CHAPTER 1.XXVII: Italian Fraternity
Excerpt: The Genesis of the Holy Roman Empire – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1986)

The period from 939 onward is colloquially known as the period of confusion, brought by the various interactions between a large number of noblemen and clerics who let Italy fall in shambles, to be divided among those who supported the Carolingian claim on the “absolute” imperial title and those who opposed continued Carolingian rule and favored a strong Church of Rome. From 939 onwards, Ottwin I of Ivrea ruled in Perugia in the name of Pope Benedict IV, but his ambitions were not satisfied yet. Emperor Charles II tried his best to prevent popular support from the mosaiced nobility for Ottwin I and, along with the parts of the established nobility who supported him, tried to shift the balance of power in Italy to his favor by fighting minor and major skirmishes against Papal forces in Tuscany and Romagna. But after Modena fell to Ottwin I’s army in 941 and him being welcomed by the cities and barons of the area as a liberator, Charles II lost the limited support he enjoyed in the area. A baron’s uprising in Liguria broke out only a year later with the siege of the city of Savona, a town occupied by Charles II's faction and where a pro-Carolingian bishop named Cecardus defended the city from the disgruntled counts. Preparations for the uprising were already made before Easter of 942, when Ottwin I found the general area between Liguria and the Alps undefended and abandoned by Charles II who retreated to beyond the Po Valley into Friuli. When Ottwin I took note of the uprising in Liguria, he moved on to Pavia, where bishop Aicone II of Milan, who stayed loyal to Charles II, greeted him reluctantly. There, Ottwin I assured Aicone II that their measures were directed against Charles II and not against the empire itself. A little later, however, Ottwin I revoked a treaty negotiated by his subordinates and Aicone II and the nobility of Lombardia, the content of which has regrettably not been handed down, because according to his understanding of the rule, he stood out among the princes and therefore could not conclude contracts with him as peers. It is believed that the provisions created by the aforementioned would, in case of a victory of the Ottwinid party, curtail the potentates' influence at the future imperial court. This proved to be a heavy blow for the support Ottwin I may have enjoyed in the area, as Aicone II of Milan would change sides once again to support Charles II.

Hearing of the second change of mind, Charles II made his move and besieged the fortified city of Parma for two months. The uprising of Aicone II broadened during this time: in Spoleto, which was headed by Neidhardt I, a Frankish count of Swabian origin whose maternal family is related to the Widonids of Neustria [1] rebelled against the antipope Leo VI, who was unpopular within the duchy. This changed situation led to a new set of negotiations between the Carolingian and Papal factions of Italy, in which both Ottwin I and Pope Benedict IV emphasized that they were not against the emperor himself, but only against the influence of his corrosive ideas of investments made into the Catholic Church in Ravenna, Modena and Parma, while Ottwin I was ready to forgive the person he tutored, but demanded the abdication from the imperial title and the arrest of the other conspirators. The negotiations failed because of Ottwin I's request which may have been intended as one of the usual calculated maneuvres of Ottwin I.

The following night, Charles II left the negotiations in Parma, with the duke of Spoleto finally joining him in his bid to outmaneuver the strengthening Papacy, and moved to the strategically important Papal residence of Rimini. Thus, the situation suddenly became critical for Ottwin I, since he effectively lost control over the roads to Rome with only Ivrea itself in under his firm control. But at the end of 942, Ottwin I finally changed the tides again, after Charles II had to break off a siege of Bologna after he caught a fever from his marches through the wetlands of the Po Delta.

Why the potentates changed their support of the two factions suddenly over only weeks and months can be explained by their interests: the Italian civil war served the interest of some to establish clear quasi-feudal structures within the Lombard kingdom and to exterminate local rivals. Considering that the local clergy tended to be much more under the influence of local potentates, this self-serving nature of the landholders allowed both Ottwin I and Charles II to lose ground in the political and literal sense, just to come back to give another blow to the opposing faction after which the local nobles change their allegiance to the victor.

But in 944 the Ottwinid uprising began to fail. Charles II met Guy I of Tuscany, the most powerful (and most independently acting) landholder of Italy in Siena, where Charles II was able to convince him that the uprising against him was an uprising against the kingdom itself ("contra regem") and, due to the unpredictable behavior of Ottwin I, that he was risking his loss of the margraviate of Tuscany. Also, Bishop Aicone II of Milan, who still was on Charles II’s side, in the meantime, won a military victory over the Ottwinids near Ivrea.

But Ottwin I's final failure came when Louis III of Aquitania passed the Burgundian Alps to invade the kingdom of Italy on behalf of his brother Charles II, which the contemporaries did not know immediately. The strained relationship between the two brothers was probably known which is why it was not surprising that both sides of the civil war mutually accused each other of having summoned the invasion force to ravage their faction. The fact that Louis III spared Ivrea and received gifts and guidance from former Ottwinid who led them through the Lombard kingdom caused the supporters of Ottwin I and Pope Benedict IV to move away from them after both became suspects of having pacted with the enemies of the kingdom. It is to this day controversial which party of the civil war called the small Aquitanian invasion force or whether it had been caused by the weakness of the Lombard kingdom itself, and it can certainly no longer be clarified.

The end of popular support forced Ottwin I and Pope Benedict IV back to the negotiating table. The parties involved, including Ottwin I and Benedict IV, now without notable backing outside of Latium, and the most powerful magnates of Italy who had withdrawn their forces from the insurgent camps when the fighting broke out, met Charles II and his brother Louis III and Duke Neidhardt I of Spoleto in Ravenna on July 16, 945. This time Ottwin I demands were completely ignored and waived away, although a settlement between Charles II and Pope Benedict IV was reached considering the investments of the episcopal offices of Ravenna, Modena, and Parma, according to which Antipope Leo VI would renounce his “ascendancy into the highest office, the pontiff of the Church of Rome” while the investments of Charles II in the latter two dioceses would be recognized by Pope Benedict IV. The archdiocese of Ravenna would be handed back to Papal control under the archbishop Costanzo, with the Carolingian backed Alboardo given the Bishopric of Cesena. The settlement would also end Charles II’s claims of control on all of the former Carolingian Empire, as the brother swore an oath to protect each other’s realms from domestic and foreign threats. The remarkable step of Charles II was a huge blow for his self-perception and self-image as the universal ruler of Christendom, although likely a result of him being at the mercy of Louis III and his small Burgundian invasion force. Additionally, this meeting in the city ended the Ravenna Dispute which is considered to be the prelude to the Lateran Crisis or Crisis of the Empire of the next centuries, although this is, for now, outside the scope of the chapter. The Ravenna Dispute established the two opposing camps, the secular power trying to influence the ecclesiastical sphere and the ecclesiastical trying to exercise political authority within Italy and beyond. Since the Frankish Empire, the kings of Central Europe had the right to appoint bishops. They justified this right with the church law, which allowed a landlord with places of worship in his area to influence its administration. After the introduction of the so-called Imperial Church System, this right to the appointment of the clergy such as bishops and abbots by the Roman emperors has become more important for their rule and administration of the empire, since the bishops and abbots have important rights and functions, such as acting with the rights of counts which had been awarded to the clerics by the empire. The Roman emperors after Lothair III and Charles II continued to see themselves as the owners of all churches and were involved in many elections of archbishops, bishops, and even abbots. The critics of this system called this practice lay investing because the non-clergy was suddenly, against what Popes such as Leo the Great intended, responsible for the episcopal sphere. They feared that this would place more emphasis on loyalty to the ruler than on spiritual education and suitability. With lay investiture and simony increasing in frequency and secular powers starting to even dominate the selection process inside the Lateran, the Crisis of the Empire would prove to be almost inevitable. But for now, here in 10th-century Italy, the Giocomii would keep the pontiffs' power limited, although impossible to ignore for any Christian ruler, which, indeed, was an acceptable outcome for Charles II who failed to reinstate his own perceived prerogatives in Rome.

Ottwin I, fearing for his life, stood once again before one of the many crossroads of history. He could have decided to submit to Charles II and preserve his power in Ivrea and salvage his authority in the semi-autonomous regions of Tuscany whose power vacuums he started to fill through promises to the lesser nobility. But he broke off the negotiations after he has heard that the general peace between Aquitania, Italy, and the Papacy was agreed upon without the consent of him. He fled, now completely politically isolated, back to Ivrea, where Charles II and Louis III besieged him for several months after which the city ultimately was set on fire. On August 22, Ottwin I finally died in battle with an army commanded by the Count of Canavese named Amadeus in front of the village of Caravino in Ivrea. His son Volkhold I managed to escape the carnage and was hunted down by Charles II’s forces. Later, Volkhold I threw himself at the emperor’s feet, begging pardon; and Charles II “received him as his son again in grace”. This ended the Italian civil war. As a political consequence, several disloyal counts lost their counties and duchies, although some of them, including Volkhold I, were allowed to keep their allodial lands in exchange for oaths and promises.

This series of military actions and negotiations was no ultimate peace, however, and tensions within Italy were not fully resolved. Especially the role of the papacy and the imperial crown within the Italian kingdom and how investments into episcopal offices should be conducted or allowed in the first place were left unresolved, not to mention the established distrust of the Church of Rome against Charles II. Both sides suffered heavy losses in terms of political leverage within the kingdom, with the only real victor being Louis III of Aquitania who was able to establish clear boundaries to the now-individual kingdoms of the former Frankish Empire. With Charles II reinstated as the emperor by the grace of the pontiff, the Frankish Empire, which only a decade ago was an ascending empire, fell into several areas of power. These became the basis of future powerful European nations, although contemporaries most likely didn’t realize that. The majority of historians, therefore, see the Concordat of Ravenna as the turning point that led to the emergence of Italy, Aquitania, Neustria, and Francia as soon-to-be independent entities removed from the imperial title. The dispute over investiture was thereby settled for the remainder of the 10th century, but the empire had suffered severe losses as a result. The emperor's sacred aura was shaken and the unity of the empire and the papacy that had existed until then was damaged, although reconciliation attempts were made to heal those wounds. The Ravenna Dispute will eventually lead to a reorientation of the ambitions of the emperors following Charles II, although the problem will continue to persist, especially outside of Italy, where local magnates exerted their influence onto the various dioceses, such as in Aquitania or Francia.

Charles II as depicted in an 11th-century chronicle.

Pavia falls to the hands of Ottwin I, although he is later betrayed by Bishop Aicone II of Milan who gives the Lombard city back to Charles II.
944: Louis III of Aquitania invades Italy on behalf of his older brother Charles II of Italy to restore his rule in the kingdom.
945: The Concordat of Ravenna. Louis III, Charles II, and Pope Benedict IV reluctantly restore, with minor changes, the status quo ante bellum, much to the dissatisfaction of Ottwin I who flees to Ivrea where he is finally killed, ending the civil war.

[1] The Widonids of Spoleto died out here ITTL.
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CHAPTER 1.XXVIII: Popes between 844 and 954
Excerpt: A Short Overview of Papal History – Hervé-Dario Etchegaray, INH Press (AD 1991)

January 844 until 27 January 847

Sergius came from a noble family. He was raised in the schola cantorum and was considered an important man within the church early on. Under Paschalis I (817-824) he was appointed cardinal-priest of the Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti, and his predecessor Gregory IV made him an influential archpriest. After Gregory IV's death, Sergius was designated as the successor at a meeting of church leaders. Suddenly, although not unexpected, a dean named John rose against Sergius, who also fought for the Papacy with the support of the Roman aristocracy and the peoples of the city behind him. After violent riots, John was however banished to a monastery and Sergius II was able to take office.

The reports on Sergius’s character diverge: in various editions of the Liber Pontificalis it is described in very opposite directions: in an only narrowly readable edition it is claimed that Sergius II preferred to devote himself to the delights of lust and flesh and left the official business to his brother Benedict. He is also said to have suffered from severe gout, which restricted him physically and mentally. In the other editions, however, the descriptions point toward the opposite. The majority of scholars and researchers nowadays are convinced that the latter case was indeed closer to the truth, although this too changed rather consistently throughout the ages. Nonetheless,
under his pontificate, simony began to take on frightening forms for the first time, which extended even into the sale of dioceses to the Frankish kings. Sergius made his undignified brother a bishop and one of the first real nepots inside the Church of Rome.

Soon after his appointment, Sergius came into conflict with Emperor Lothair I, who felt that he was ignored in the Papal elections and therefore sent his son Louis II with an army to Rome. Sergius II managed to defuse the conflict and prevent an armed struggle for Rome at the last minute. In order to further secure peace, he crowned Louis II as co-king and conferred the title of papal envoy for the Eastern and Western Francia to the imperial adviser Drogo, the Bishop of Metz.

Shortly before he died in 846, Sergius had to face a violent attack by the Saracens on Rome; the old St. Peter's Basilica and the church of St. Paul were badly damaged, and only the fierce opposition from residents prevented the attackers from devastating the city itself.
Sergius II was buried in St. Peter's Basilica after his death in 847.

10 April 847 until 27 January 855

Leo IV, one of the greatest popes until the 10th century, was the son of the Roman citizen Rodualdus and was Pope from 10 April 847 until his death. Before his election, he was a sub-deacon and cardinal priest of Santi Quattro Coronati.

During his pontificate he had to defend the city of Rome against attacks from the Saracens. In 849, the papal army won a decisive victory over the Saracens in the naval battle of Ostia. Leo IV fortified the mouths of the Tiber and the area around St. Peter located west of the Tiber in what was later known as Leonine Walls after his pontiff's name.
During Leo IV's pontificate, probably in Rheims, the Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae, the pseudo-Isidorean decrees, were created, a shameless as well as significant falsification of ecclesiastical legal sources, which were depicted as the work of the saint Isidor of Seville and were only exposed as false documents in the 16th century. They were dangerous, but have become useful for the papacy because the real and the fake appear to be interwoven. In this way, everything that goes back to the 4th century was somehow falsified, real things were only inserted through "decretals" in the 7th and 8th centuries. The popes, however, did not make excessive use of Pseudo-Isidore, and once the proof of the forgery was found, these papers were banished from the library of the Lateran.
A contemporary portrait of Leo IV is preserved in San Clemente in Rome.

Leo IV is one of the saints of the Roman Catholic Church; his patron saint festival is celebrated on 21st July [1].

[2] 3 October 855 until 24 December 875

Hadrian II was a son of roman noble and is known for having had a kind but weak personality. He had been married and had a daughter before entering the Lateran as the new pontiff.

During the Papal elections, there was turmoil between the various supporters of the three main candidates, Hadrian II (cardinal of San Marco), Anastasius (cardinal-deacon), and Benedict (cardinal of San Callisto). Benedict campaigned for the marriage to be sacred and celibacy and fought against the decline in the morality of the nobility and the high clergy. Anastasius, on the other hand, was supported by the imperial party and attempted to imprison Hadrian II and his family. However, when Anastasius’ support waned, Hadrian II, now a popular candidate within the Roman aristocracy, was freed and ordained on 3 October 855. Anastasius was expelled after two days, but pardoned by the mild, benevolent Hadrian II who made him abbot of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

His pontificate was shaped by the political changes within the Carolingian Empire, the weakening role of the papacy within the Church, and the Photian Schism. He recognized the very controversial marriage of Lothair II to his mistress Waldrada after the suspicious death of his infertile wife Teutberga, under mysterious circumstances during her ordeal of boiling water. Hadrian II also negotiated peace between the Carolingian siblings by proposing treaties and anointing and crowning Carloman I shortly before his death in 875. While his lenient nature cost him his influence in episcopal affairs of Francia Orientalis and Neustria, Hadrian II failed spectacularly to limit the power of Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims within Neustria, he was able to outmaneuver the patriarchate of Constantinople and the basileus Michael III and his uncle and later basileus Bardas I by introducing Latin Rite Christianity to the Bulgar Khanate under Boris I who was baptized by a close friend of Hadrian II named Formusus of Portus who, in turn, became the first archbishop of Pliska.
His private life became controversial in the following centuries, as he was a pope with a wife and a daughter, and is to this day one of the reasons why he wasn't sanctified, despite his missionary efforts in Bulgaria and Rhomania and his well-known piety.

He reportedly died on Christmas Eve 875.

[3] 30 December 875 until 880

John VIII came from Rome and was the son of a certain Gundo. He had become an archdeacon in 852, and on 30 December 875, he was hastily elected to the chair of St. Peter. As Pope, he endeavored to maintain papal supremacy in Italy after the decline of the Carolingian Empire, thanks to the ever-bickering members of the dynasty, and to defend the city against Saracens. To fulfill these ambitions, he created the League of Anzio consisting of some Lombard princes and the Holy See which lend some of its forces to combat the Saracens in Meridia.

The work of the Pope was primarily concerned with renewal within the Church, although John VIII inherited the conflict with Photius I, the patriarch of Constantinople, from his predecessors with whom the Western Church had been in an unofficial schism since Hadrian II. The Council of Saloniki in 878 led to a provisional agreement that ended the Photian schism, although it failed to heal the deeper wounds between the Latin and Greek churches. The compromise stated that the bishop of Rome was given jurisdiction over the bishops of the West, while at the same time confirming the honorific primacy of the Roman church of all the patriarchates, at the cost of the other patriarchates being able to reject the Roman jurisdiction.
He supported the Slavic apostle Methodius and, shortly before his death, allowed the Slavic language in the liturgy in his Industriae tuae and stated that "He who created the three main languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, also created all other languages for his praise and glory."
But his defense of Rome against the raiding Muslims of Sicily and Africa drained the Roman treasury to an unprecedented amount, and John VIII became unpopular within the eternal city once he proved to be resilient against bribes and threats of violence. His failure to legitimize the son of emperor Carloman I, Arnulf, would turn the secular power and even parts of the high clergy against him.

John VIII is the first of many medieval popes whose lives are known to end in violent death [4]. Various versions can be documented from the sources: either he died fighting the Saracens, or, this case is, sadly, more probable, he died a violent death in Rome: Guy II of Spoleto, on behalf of Carloman I, wounded him in the middle of a night with a sword after which another conspirator beheaded him. He will go down in history as one of the last popes with some semblance of integrity and loyalty to only the Church itself in the early medieval era.

[5] Autumn 880 until 7 August 905

Previously known as John II of Pavia. For the first time, a bishop from another see was raised to the rank of the pope, which has been banned as a so-called translation since the Council of Nicea. The pontificate of the wise, pious Boniface VI was uneventful, only notable for his opposition to the Saxon pretender-king Bruno I and the coronation of Lambert I and his son Guy IV, he most powerful prince of Italy and main opponent of some pesky elements within the Roman aristocracy, as Holy Roman Emperors. These two anointments happened primarily since Boniface VI could not expect help from the crumbling Carolingian empire as well as from the Rhomanoi of Constantinople against the increasingly threatening Saracen danger. But the growing power over the borders of the Papal States soon worried him, but he died before he could prevent the Spoletan Dukes' power to expand too quickly.

In 896, the Basilica of St. John Lateran was largely destroyed by an earthquake, a disaster which was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure, making him an unpopular figure after all. The next nine years were therefore dominated by intrigues and attempts on his life by Roman nobles eyeing for the early death of the pope. He endured the hardships and died after a severe fever.

Winter 905 until 8 January 913

Formerly Archbishop Deodato I of Gaeta, another bishop from another see which was raised to the rank of the pope, although this time with the popular support of the Roman aristocracy. He was pious, but a particularly vengeful pope. On behalf of the Roman nobility which influenced his decision-making to a considerable degree, the pope renounced the anointment of Guy IV based on the accusation of incest with his sister Rotlind and declared his rule to be illegitimate which sparked a period of civil strife in all of Italy. An otherwise uneventful pontiff who would become one of the four infamous popes to die within just two years.

19 January 913 until 27 February 913

Dishonorably removed from office several times, elderly Sixtus IV ruled for only five weeks. Despite the later decision of the Concordat of Ravenna to remove his name, he is usually counted as Pope. He died due to malarial infection in 913.

7 March 913 until 11 December 913

Roman by birth, Sergius III was elected into the chair of St. Peter by Roman aristocrats who wished for a stronger pontificate in the times of peril. A puppet in all but name, he sanctioned and imprisoned political rivals of the Counts of Fornovo who were able to decisively outmaneuver the Counts of Tusculum. He died in his sleep in Autumn of the same year, although his corpse was lost in the 11th century.

22 December 913 until 19 January 914

A particularly uneventful papacy, although he is not forgotten as geriatric Benedict III was one of the shortest reigning pontiffs in history. He died in his sleep after difficulties breathing.

30 January 914 until 30 October 918

He was a protégé of Pope Celestine II. Hadrian III restored order within the Church and the Roman senate and made peace with Lothair III who invaded Italy during the power struggle of Ottwin I and Unroach IV. On 29 July 916, the pope anointed Lothair III in Rome, one of the most impactful Carolingian rulers of history. The weak, yet honorable and wise Pope held a synod in Rimini trying to repair the faults created during the year without a real pontiff and to bring the Patriarchate of Constantinople closer to Rome again. Peace seemed to be returning, but Lothair III and various Lombard princes conducted a Meridian campaign to end the Saracen incursions which drained the Papal treasures once again.

He also tried to settle a long-running dispute between the dioceses of Cologne and Bremen-Hamburg over the control of monasteries and bishoprics in Northern Francia, particularly Nordalbingia, but he died before he could act on it.

NICHOLAS I November 918 until Autumn 921

Nicholas I was the youngest son of the impoverished Count of Segni who pursued an ecclesiastical career, with much success. He became camerlengo under Benedict III and befriended Hadrian III who proposed him as his successor to the cardinals. Although a quite unusual jump in any career, he somewhat successfully pursued the conciliatory policies of his predecessor Hadrian III.
But as he continued the work of Hadrian III, the turmoil of the various factions within the Roman senate grew alarmingly. Nicholas I tried to settle the dispute with the archbishopric of Ravenna and additionally fought against simony and corruption, both without notable success.

He perishes from historic records in Spring 921, although it is generally believed that he lived well into Autumn of the same year.

26 January 922 until June 927

His election was quite controversial as the Counts of Lazio initially preferred the "foreigner" John IX of Tossignano, the archbishop of Ravenna. Only after multiple concessions to the lay aristocracy, he succeeded in his bid to the chair of St. Peter.

His pontificate itself is uneventful, thanks to the stable emperorship of Lothair III and the pacified Southern and Eastern border regions of Lazio, although we know nothing about the years 923 and 924 of his reign.

July 927 until Spring 933

The energetic, although morally dubious, Boniface VII was one of the first popes to have been elected primarily by the Count of Fornovo Giocomo and his wife Paola. While he was not a puppet to the Giocomii, contrary to popular belief, his secular power outside the Lateran was severely curtailed as the Papal Curia almost entirely fell under the influence of the Giocomii who now conducted diplomacy on behalf of the Lateran. In this fashion, Giocomo allied himself with Guy I of Tuscany through marital ties through Giocomo's daughter Paola to finally end the growing restlessness of Boniface VII who now tried to free himself with the supposed help of Lothair III's son Charles II of Italy from the control of the Roman aristocracy, although this ended with his imprisonment and death.

His pontificate was otherwise quite uneventful, although rumors at the time persisted, that he poisoned his predecessor John XI, though this cannot be verified.

1 April 933 until 9 November 934

Leo V was the cardinal of Saint Cyriacus before his ascension onto the chair of St. Peter. An elderly man when he was elected primarily on the whim of Count Giocomo, he served only as a capable placeholder to fend off the ambitions of Charles II to incorporate the papacy into the imperial administration. Thus, as a willless creature of the Giocomii, Leo V and his pontificate was ultimately meaningless and only served as the beginning of the Dark Century of Rome, the saeculum obscurum.

12 November 934 until December 937

The reasons for Giocomo's and his son Lucian's actions for the installation of Leo V as pontiff can not only be found within the Papal Curia; with the elimination of a potential rival, they were able to leave the papal throne practically vacant for their son or brother John. Unfortunately, the boy was still only about twenty when Boniface VII ascended into the pontificate, so Lucian put in the elderly puppets as stopgaps before having him installed as John X in late 934, much to the dissatisfaction of emperor Charles II. By that time John X was lectured enough to understand the basic principles and doctrines of the Church of Rome, which might explain why his pontificate was not particularly disastrous for the Church itself, although this cannot be applied to the kingdom of Italy.

John X, a somewhat capable strategist, tried to bring back the archdiocese of Ravenna under his direct control through the appointment of a weak-willed man named Constantin which was generally regarded as an act of aggression against Charles II who grew tired of the constant schemes of the Giocomii. He, in turn, tried to install a devout Carolingian loyalist named Alberic there, to further move the archdiocese away from the ever-grasping hands of the Giocomii. The dispute would eventually escalate, although this would not be the fault of John X who did these actions only reluctantly and tried to appease Charles II with minor and unimportant concessions, which didn't go unnoticed through the actual powerholder in Rome Lucian; he was later on imprisoned by his own brother and died in captivity, possibly after being strangled by an angry mob.

29 December 937 until 20 September 948

As a paternal cousin of both Lucian and John X, he too served only as a puppet in place for Lucian's political intrigues. The Ravenna Dispute eventually escalated under him with Benedict IV excommunicating Charles II and declaring Ottwin I as anti-emperor while Charles II defamed Benedict IV as a false monk and declared an anti-pope. A war within Italy ensued over which faction was the righteous one, although, in truth, it was nothing but a mere power struggle between the various magnates of Italy, the emperor and the pontiff under the Giocomii and a conflict over how their relationship in the Post-Lotharian Era should look like.

On the pope himself, it can be said that it was not for nothing that Benedict IV was the nephew of Giocomo of Fornovo; as one of the most shameless debauchees of his age, he allowed Rome to slide into chaos, using its wealth as well as that of the Lateran to gratify his own passion for every kind of sexual license and gambling away possessions of the Church of Rome to please his lust. Rome’s political position, therefore, began to deteriorate fast; moreover, the enemy Charles II was threatening to ravage the papal territories to the north of Rome. By the autumn of 944, however, Benedict IV had no choice but to appeal to the, admittedly weakened, Charles II and to offer peace to him. A Concordat was signed in Ravenna in which both main parties reluctantly restored the status quo ante bellum, dishonorably and, truth to be told, shamefully ending the alliance between Ottwin I and the Giocomian Papacy. The doctrinal reasons for the opposition of the investiture of lay aristocrats into episcopal offices were not enforced, and simony would continue after the Concordat of Ravenna, this time especially outside of Italy where magnates appoint abbots and bishops to govern on their behalf.

Uneducated in every respect, Benedict IV, a cynical tyrant, spoke only the vulgar Latin language. Chroniclers of the time report that the arm of the pope was maimed as part of a Tivolian conspiracy against the Giocomii, but this cannot be verified as well. He died as a shameless puppet of the now-deceased Lucian and her sister Paola in 948 having destroyed the integrity of the Church of Rome and countless lives in Italy.

12 October 948 until January 954

A maternal cousin of Paola who has joined the Roman Church before the de-facto coup of the Giocomii. While he didn't bring much shame on the Church of Rome, he too failed at ending the dark century.

His papacy was marked by his encouraged peace between the four kings of the former Carolingian Empire with the Treaty of Metz. But within the Church, like his predecessors, he failed to coalesce any authority back into the church, although peace finally returned when the new matriarch of the Giocomii, Paola [6], conveniently became a widow after Guy I of Tuscany perished in 949 and married Charles II to finally stabilize the terrorizing hand of the Giocomii throughout the Papal States, this marriage was consecrated in Rome and it says much about the lacking wisdom of John XI that he agreed, completely ignoring doctrinal demands and contradicting what has been set down by the Concordat of Ravenna. The marriage indeed became quite controversial, and many demanded that the pope should delegitimize any descendants of this marriage. Although the marriage would, in the end, prove to be the downfall of both Paola and Charles II, it didn't happen because of John XI, despite having wanted that to happen; John XI who after some years of obedience and sheer ignorance seemed to have fallen foul of his masters, the emperor Charles II and John X's cousin Paola. What occurred is uncertain, but there is little doubt that the pope was brutally mutilated and died of his injuries.

His legacy is conflicting, but his reign was, beyond a doubt, influential in the sense that only due to his inaction Charles II and his emperorship would fall apart.

[1] A bit different than IOTL, where it is celebrated on the 17th July.
[2] As mentioned earlier in the timeline, he is the same guy as OTL's Hadrian II.
[3] I failed to directly mention it before, but TTL's John VIII is also the same person as OTL's John VIII, although the environment in which he became pope changed, in a negative way without the strong popes Benedict III and St. Nicholas I who improved the structure and promoted the power of the papacy by a lot. The fallout of having Hadrian II for too long instead of the hardliners will begin with him.
[4] Just like IOTL, but honestly it was a bad time to be a pope in both timelines.
[5] As mentioned before, this is the first pope of this timeline who didn't ascend into the pontificate IOTL.
[6] Not to be confused with Paola's mother Paola.
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Ah, so this TL also has the pornocracy replace the Papacy :p. Is the Slavonic rite based on the Latin rite, or do the Romans manage to exercise some level of religious influence through Cyril and Methodius?
Ah, so this TL also has the pornocracy replace the Papacy :p. Is the Slavonic rite based on the Latin rite, or do the Romans manage to exercise some level of religious influence through Cyril and Methodius?
Regarding the pornocracy, I figured that this is unlikely that this is butterflied away without some PoD which specifically targets the 9th-century structure of the Papal Curia, it was simply too perfect to not exploit, especially without the strong pontiffs Benedict III and St. Nicholas I. At least we don't have to deal with the Theophylacti.

Throughout his life Methodius and Cyril worked in the tensed atmosphere between their Byzantine-Orthodox lectures and the Roman Catholic church's political efforts to expand their influence into Central and Eastern Europe. With his brother Cyril, he played a decisive role in the inculturation of Christianity among the Slavs, although he never really specified which rite the Slavonic one should resemble. The Industriae tuae of the pope even made it into both our as well as into this timeline, since there is really no way to effectively expand the Patriarch's influence towards Moravia without Papal consent, Methodius was really at the mercy of the Roman Pope in most of his stay there. All of this means that not much has changed inside Moravia and Bohemia considering Christianity since I think Cyril and Methodius will be barely effected by the hutterflies of the original PoD.

To be brutally honest, life is going to get really hard for the Byzantine Orthodox Church without an Orthodox Bulgar state. They won't be able to heal the ongoing schismatic dynamic between Constantinople and Rome, but they won't be able to exercise much influence into the Haemus without Bulgar... "allies" either.